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Briefing: Hashed Health to convene blockchain consortium in Nashville
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Founder-CEO John Bass

HASHED HEALTH, the Nashville startup backed by Martin Ventures and Fenbushi Capital, will in September convene in Music City its growing consortium of healthcare companies interested in development and use of blockchain systems and distributed ledger technology.

Those technologies were introduced in 2009 and originally powered only the Bitcoin digital currency. They have since won favor among those contemplating use of distributed databases in which data and events are linked, time-stamped and "immutable," thereby reducing transaction costs, strengthening trustworthiness and, in many use-cases, completely obviating the need for authorities, notaries or other transaction-validating intermediaries, and their associated costs.

The Hashed Health (HH) gathering this autumn will be held in conjunction with the 2nd Distributed: Health conference, which is set here for Sept. 25, Hashed Health Founder/CEO John Bass confirmed in a series of interviews with Venture Nashville.

Meanwhile, the Bass team will fly the HH flag in the nation's capital during much of the next nine days. This week, HH is a sponsor of the "Blockchain in Healthcare Code-A-Thon" being held by the HHS Office for the National Coordinator for HealthIT (ONC) and the Chamber of Digital Commerce. Then, the HH team will attend the ensuing "DC Blockchain Summit at Georgetown University. A few days later, HH will be featured in the TCBI Blockchain Summit, also in DC.

Looking ahead, Bass said he expects "a good turnout from across the globe" for the HH Consortium gathering, which, in tandem with the Distributed: Health conference here Sept. 25, he believes is likely to open a deeper discussion of advancements in blockchain for healthcare in the U.S. and abroad.

Bo Shen

That international frame of reference was reinforced by Fenbushi Capital Founding Partner Bo Shen, who said in a Feb. 7 press release from his Shanghai-based firm, "We strongly believe Hashed Health's blockchain technology will play an important role in bringing transparency, efficiency and robustness into the global healthcare economy."

The Distributed: Health conference is one of a series mounted thus far in Nashville (Health), Atlanta (Finance/Markets) and St. Louis (Trade/Supply Chain) by Nashville-based BTC Inc., which is the parent BTC Media, publisher of Distributed, Bitcoin Magazine and other titles. Hashed Health investor Fenbushi Capital is also an investor in BTC. Fenbushi General Partner Vitalik Buterin was among original co-founders of Bitcoin Magazine, under previous ownership.

In February, Bass told Nashville-based bitcoin podcaster John Barrett that he believes Hashed Health's efforts will contribute to helping Nashville "really create Nashville as a center of Blockchain activity," with blockchain ultimately providing "the new connective tissue" for a consumer-centric healthcare delivery system.

Hashed Health and its allies are moving to "create Nashville as a hub" for blockchain and distributed ledger innovation, Bass said March 9 during the Nashville Blockchain Meetup, founding sponsors of which include Hashed Health, Frost Brown Todd and BTC Media.

Phil Roe

Albeit from a different angle, such Nashville-as-hub references seems congruent with remarks by Martin Ventures CEO Phil Roe, who on Feb. 2 told the local Blockchain Meetup that he believes Nashville must "create a lab type environment" here, in order to marry hospital-industry knowledge with skills needed to develop and integrate new technology solutions.

Bass told Venture Nashville his team has identified 30 use-cases for possible pursuit. Perhaps a half-dozen of those will get highest priority for exploration.

He said some of the company's most tightly defined "gateway projects" center on issues associated with the Pharmaceuticals sector, which was the focus of the March 9 meetup.

Corey Todaro

During that evening's panel discussion, Hashed Health COO Corey Todaro said he recently spent three months researching potential Health/Medicine use-cases for blockchain, and emerged with heightened awareness that Pharma is "a whole ecosystem unto itself," with potential use-cases vital to manufacturers, retailers, pharmacy benefits managers, clinical research organizations (CROs), providers and others.

Todaro observed that large pharmaceutical companies and CRO's, alike, are concerned with satisfying regulatory requirements in conducting clinical trials and in getting new products into the hands of patients who need them, with minimum delay.

Improving CRO work processes and documentation means grappling with such issues as physician compliance and patient recruitment, patient consent and identity management, and disclosure of clinical-study objectives and milestones, to name but a few of a myriad of variables.

Todaro acknowledged that most organizations that are considering devoting resources to identify use-cases and explore or development blockchain-based solutions are moving cautiously, and some are moving edgily among potential partners and technologies with all the aplomb of students at their first "middle-school dance." Ultimately, many prospective blockchain users will move forward when they realize that first steps include establishing trust and workable relationship supported by "a minimally viable network of transactional parties."

Kevin Clauson

Kevin Clauson, PharmD, an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy at Lipscomb University, shared the panel with Todaro and explained that fresh impetus had been given to addressing drug supply chain security, tracking and tracing, provenance and related matters by enactment of the Drug Quality and Security Act (2013).

Clauson added that Title II of that bipartisan legislation is the Drug Supply Chain Security Act, which is being phased-in through 2023. The law arose in response to the now infamous New England Compounding Center contamination and subsequent meningitis deaths of 2012.

Clauson said there might soon be a proof of concept project mounted in Puerto Rico, where a large Pharma manufacturing presence and commonwealth interest in addressing compliance, drug tracking/tracing and related issues might make a "localized rollout" executable. Bass later told VNC that Hashed Health and its Consortium might well pursue development of some use-cases in Asia and other regions of the globe, where regulatory regimes are conducive to the work.

When subsequently asked by an audience member why Healthcare industry decision-makers should at this early stage be expected to be more attentive to the case for blockchain, panelists cited such factors as blockchain's potential role in coping with mounting reimbursement pressures, the emergence of pro-innovation leaders in healthcare delivery, and executives' basic obligation to stay abreast of factors that could have significant bearing on care outcomes and bottom lines.

Clauson said he believes consumers' rising expectations regarding the effectiveness of care and the quality of information they are getting in the current healthcare system is a major driver of the healthcare industry's heightened interest in meaningful innovation.

Giles Ward

Panelist Giles Ward, who is executive director of the Hashed Health Consortium, offered that he view Millenials as less tethered to the status quo.

That generation is not strongly tied to individual brands or business models, and they have come to expect their personal data to be easily transferrable, said Ward. Such expectations must be met within the healthcare delivery system.

Bass added that the fact that 1.2 million people are now using bitcoin globally means a significant portion of the world's population has become accustomed to a fundamental shift in options available for moving personal assets -- further suggesting that consumers may rapidly become more likely to demand greater control over their own personal health information, and the monetization or commercialization, thereof.

During his podcast in February, Bass also told his host, "I think there's such a thirst -- not just in Nashville, but across the world -- for things that can be disruptive..." In particularly, Bass said he senses there is now a kind of "great new hope for healthcare," a new hope he said is very much needed if we are to improve the quality of patient care and "reduce the runaway costs."

One of many major questions looming over blockchain development and adoption is that of how to convince venture capitalists to fund blockchain-centric businesses.

Apart from VCs, Bass told VNC that developing some otherwise orphaned use cases might require some "social investment" by parties holding "no expectation for immediate direct returns. Medical records is an example. For example, the Gates Foundation has committed an undisclosed sum to work on a blockchain-based medical records product. At this time Hashed has not lined up any 'social investments' as such, but we are not ruling-out the possibility of dedicating resources to this type of project. I also believe that some of the work we are already doing could contribute to more socially oriented projects."

In November 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it had provided Austin-based Factom a nearly $500K grant to build a prototype of "a digitized medical record system for individuals living in remote developing areas of the world."

Another imperative, Bass said, lies in educating and enlisting healthcare consumers to embrace opportunities to "open and close the door" on provider and industry access to their personal health data assets, which are not only potentially monetizable by the consumer, but also useful in industry efforts to devise better care and medicine.

COO Todaro told the March 9 meetup that he's "really excited" about how new types of data, including data controlled by individual patients, could help improve clinical care. Earlier in the year, Todaro told an audience convened here by The Disruption Lab that blockchain solutions seem likely to make it possible for consumers to become fully sovereign over their personal data and identity, repositories of which are now mainly controlled by the healthcare industry.

Todaro also previously projected the Hashed Health would execute "three or four" blockchain proofs of concept projects within a year. He said areas of particular interest could include audit and compliance, finance and contract management, tracking high-value assets (whether human resources, tissue and devices, equipment and more), data liquidity (consumer-owned data, credentials, enterprise data, patient-reported outcome measures, etc.) and Interoperability.

Blockchain and healthIT Interoperability are global topics that are becoming somewhat interwoven.

In that context, it is noteworthy that the nonprofit Center for Medical Interoperability (CMI) established its headquarters here in 2015; and, in August 2016, the CMI was cited by researchers from the Brookings Institution as representing important leverage for Nashvillians who might seek to establish Nashville as a national HealthIT leader. No signals, yet, from those involved in framing Nashville's response.

Martin Ventures's Chairman Charlie Martin, a major serial healthcare entrepreneur based in Nashville, has pointed to blockchain as a technology that might be used to improve healthcare quality and affordability, while heightening community action and individual consumer agency in healthcare decisions. Related story here.

In recent months, HH's robust effort to establish itself within the healthIT blockchain ecosystem -- including its joining the nonprofit Hyperledger Project -- have brought it business and thought-leadership opportunities, as well as mentions in such media as WIRED and HealthcareITNews.

Bass chartered Hashed Industries LLC as Delaware company in September 2016, with Hashed Health as a dba. The company's website also makes clear it is looking at Fintech and Supply Chain verticals, as well as healthcare.

Bass was previously CEO of HCA's InvivoLink subsidiary, a unit formed following HCA's 2015 acquisition of the startup, in which Bass was COO. In addition to Founder Ryan Wells, InVivoLink investors had included Nashville healthtech entrepreneur Jim Sohr, now operating mainly through PoweredHealth; and, Adel Almessiry, now CTO of startup Utilize Health. Institutional investors during Bass's time aboard InVivoLink included Sandbox Industries (Chicago) and Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Funds.

HH's outside advisors include Bass, Berry & Sims and Crowell Moring, the latter providing specialized counsel on matters related to blockchain, the Consortium, regulatory affairs and other issues. The Crowell website this morning displays a number of substantial documents pertaining to blockchain and related startup, legal and regulatory matters.

Bass and his family reside in his native Nashville. His Linkedin profile is here. Now 45, Bass explained his personal interest in blockchain in this June 2016 VNC story. VNC

chair art: Shutterstock

. last edited 14 March 2017 0630


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